Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, the Set-up for Regret, and the Doomed Childhood

tokyo magnitude 8 OP title screen tokyo tower

I found myself very much taken by the first episode of Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. It got to me in a powerful way.

At first, I was complaining to myself at how yet another story is set in middle school with a lot of cute girls. What I didn’t expect is a rather sober and nuanced portrayal of childhood and family dynamics. In this show I found strong reminders of both my ideal childhood, and the one that reflected more on how I behaved. Perhaps I really just felt that I was a lot like Yuuki at his age, wide-eyed and excited about everything; and I was a lot like Mirai at her age, irritated and upset so easily at how ordinary my circumstances were, down to the resentment towards my parents and how I treated my youngest brother as some kind of nuisance.

Strong stuff for me here.

Mirai has the crippling predicament of identity politics in her middle school. The lack of external hostility (bullying) allows her to be sucked into introspection. This may be just as terrible. Her friends are wealthier than she is, and compared to her (of course she compares herself to them) they have life figured out. If the boredom of a Suzumiya Haruhi is about not finding what one strongly wants and expects out of life, the boredom Onozawa Mirai experiences is one of not even knowing what to want.

tokyo magnitude 8 01 mirai onozawa classmates talking vacation tripstokyo magnitude 8 01 mirai onozawa classmates talking future self essay

She asks her dad to take the family on a vacation, not because she really wants to go, but more like it’s the thing to do. It’s fueled by dread, as I imagine that the first week of school will be dominated by stories of her friends’ trips abroad. She doesn’t even want to compete with them. She just doesn’t want to stand out as the person who didn’t have the similar experience.

I too grew up with both parents working (and hardly making enough to put three sons through school), and can relate to the dysfunction (for lack of a better word) in the relationships in the Onazawa household. The father works, but seems rather irresponsible for completely forgetting about his wife’s birthday — something Mirai is guilty of herself. What struck me is how he took it out on her for being late to get home, just to tell her that the kids are hungry and there was no dinner yet (she was already preparing it at this point).

I suspect him of using the children as proxies for his own selfishness. He’s the one who wants dinner more than his kids do. Otherwise he has a casual relationship with them, and I also find it curious at how he discussed Mirai’s request for a summer trip: he abdicated the decision to his wife, but seemingly in consideration of how busy she is with her work. I like it that there are no easy conclusions to be made about these characters. In the short time they are given to distinguish themselves, they aren’t rendered as caricatures.

The mother herself is quite concentrated with her work, does not seem to complain at how no one quite remembers her birthday, and yet doesn’t quite fall into a martyr mother kind of character. What stands out is her rather ordinary relationship with Mirai. She insisted on seeing her report card. Like the dad, both of them seem to be ‘parenting by numbers;’ that is to say that they are fulfilling their accountabilities seemingly by rote.

And the mother does some parenting, delegating taking Yuuki to the robot exhibition in Odaiba to Mirai. Mirai resists this, and is resentful, and was hardly capable of having genuine fun at the event, almost ruining the fun for Yuuki. However, Yuuki is invincible. I mean, it is philosophically impossible for Yuuki to not have fun in a robot exhibition. More than just foreshadowing the involvement of disaster-relief robots, Chekov style (ALSO, TOKYO MAGNITUDE 8.0 IS GOING TO BE THE MECHA ANIME THIS SEASON! YESSSSSS! Someone throws me a bone and I’m happy) the whole exhibiton sequence showed how Yuuki is the idealized childhood. I mean, that’s how I would be in a robot exhibition!

tokyo magnitude 8 01 mirai onazawa yuuki rescue robotstokyo magnitude 8 01 rescue robots

Through it all, Mirai suffered because of her passive resentment of her circumstances. She couldn’t have fun because she wouldn’t really try. To have fun there would be childish, god forbid. Everything that happens gets on her nerves, and I find myself drawn further into her character, remembering how I was at that age — with all that unjustified irritation.

I was so strung along by Mirai’s many complaints and listless passivity towards her first day of summer vacation that when the earthquake struck, I was actually surprised! I suddenly remembered that this was a disaster anime.

And then Mirai screams for Yuuki, who had to go to the toilet in the now crumbling building. In her scream I hear something beyond familial love for her one and only kid brother. I hear waves of regret, at not giving this time with him her best, her all. Fear too, fear at losing not only the brother, but the childhood that she was in such a hurry to throw away. It’s because part of her could very well know, that if she should survive and he doesn’t, she’d just get what she wished for: she won’t be a child ever again.

tokyo magnitude 8 01 mirai onazawa earthquake shouting for yuuki

Further Reading

Gene seems to like the show but has no patience for Mirai (Gene 2009/07/11)
Rednights cares so little about Mirai that the she was left nameless through the whole review (Redights 2009/07/10)
Janette finds the middle school portrayal rather good (Janette 2009/07/11)
Since this is not really a review, I’ll send you over to Hanners who gives a detailed and informative one (Hanners 2009/07/10)
Excessively nitpicking though arriving at a positive conclusion at AniPagesDaily [->]
Hige gives some perspective about this show in the context of other works by BONES (Hige 2009/07/12)
LOL yes I want to be like Yuuki, and I’ve never let go of that part of me; it’s quite central to my appreciation of anime [->]

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in analysis, first impressions, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, the Set-up for Regret, and the Doomed Childhood

  1. Sorrow-kun says:

    I think a lot of the fears for this anime is that it’d get so caught up in the disasters and onslaught of bad things happening one-after-another around the characters that it wouldn’t have time for any decent character development. This is a trap that a lot of disaster movies fall into. I think the first ep should dispel a lot of those fears. I was surprised at how nuanced and realistic the family interactions were.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I don’t know about ‘development’ or what it really means in this context, but I do think it would be great if there character story lines and this episode suggests this strongly.

      At first I wasn’t so sure about the regret angle, given that it is quite a predictable thing to do in a disaster story (characters have said things they wish they could take balk, they have unfinished business in relationships, etc); but after considering what I just saw I think it’s quite good.

      I also hesitate to use ‘realistic’ since it is very strange for family members to forget a birthday of the mother. Rather, the portrayal rings true of family awkwardness and I appreciate this very much. Nuanced is correct.

  2. Bass says:

    Brilliant post, that was a great read and a very deep analysis on the first post. I really liked how you compared it to your own childhood.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Thank you very much. I think that the blog format allows for personal sharing and interaction with the subject matter. I don’t think you’ll find much objective ‘judgment’ on the supposed ‘quality’ of shows here. Most of the time I write about things I advocate, such as the Bakuman manga, something I think is relevant to your interests [->]

  3. Kiri says:

    Wasn’t going to pick up this at all, but decided to go ahead after briefly skimming this early. Because you said you forgot about the impending earthquake, I couldn’t, lol, so I spent most of the episode thinking about how her parents are going to die in the disaster and she’ll be left to fend for herself and her brother. Still, the set up is pretty amazing. I was watching it with my brother and both of us could relate a lot to both Mirai and Yuuki. The familial relationships, innocence, and resentment all struck pretty deep and I’m more attached to both characters (as well as the biker chick) from just this one episode than I am with some characters after an entire series. I was a little frustrated near the end at Mirai and Yuuki’s separation, but yeah, really can’t wait to see more of this.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Yeah, I’m glad you enjoyed the relationship dynamics as well. I really like well-drawn characters and these kids are poised to wow me.

  4. sadakups says:

    Know what? If they wanted this to be realistic, they should have shown the 1:1 scale Gundam (since it’s still standing at Odaiba at present, and yes, it will really make this anime THE mecha anime of the season.) and it breaking down to pieces during the quake scene. 😛

    Seriously though, I was also taken by the first episode. An earthquake is probably the only natural disaster that I’m scared the most since this can’t be predicted. When it happens, it doesn’t prepare anyone for it. I’m somewhat expecting Mirai to break down, along with the ground, and hopefully at the end of it, her character makes a turn-around.

    • ghostlightning says:

      You must have been a small kid when the 1990 earthquake happened. Baguio was leveled, but here in Metro Manila it got pretty scary too. I was in my first year of high school then, and I was telling off the dude sitting behind me for kicking my chair repeatedly. When he said “I’m not kicking your chair!” it was as if everyone looked at each other at the same time and confirmed it: the whole building was shaking violently.

      Our teacher was very calm and handled it professionally, by leading everyone into prayer. HOWEVER, my troublemaker clown of a classmate stood up in front and shouted at the top of his lungs: “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!”

      LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

      The girls were CRYING, but us boys were all ROFL’d and (crying from totally inappropriate laughter). Tell you what, not a single one of us 13-year olds were afraid of the earthquake afterwards. Truthfully, none of the smaller earthquakes that hit Manila every now and then ever really faze me. Thank you Allan Cayanan, may the earthquake gods never get you.

      • sadakups says:

        Yes, I was six during the Baguio quake, so I can’t really remember much on how it felt back then. What my parents told me, though, is that we were in Baguio a few months before it happened.

        Remember the hoax that spread last year about a magnitude 9.0 quake hitting Manila? That is probably the only joke that I can’t take because it is no laughing matter. I mean, working in one of them high-rise buildings in Makati does not help alleviate the paranoia.

        • ghostlightning says:

          Yeah, though living so close to the Marikina faultline I find that humor is a great way to deal with force majeure. There’s very little one can do against a 9.0 earthquake so I find it best to live life full out and without regret as the best way to deal with unpredictable almost certain death and/or mutilation of one’s world.

        • gloval says:

          @sadakups
          Whoa, I was in Baguio too that summer of 1990. Speaking of that rumored earthquake, I think you received an email that had been in circulation since 2004. Taken in that context, I still can’t call that email a hoax. I think it’s one of those freakishly accurate vision of the future, just that the interpretation was off. Details here in my old blog.

          @ghostlightning
          I was in prep class in Bicol when the 1990 quake happened. We felt it at a weak Intensity 3 there. I particularly felt dizzy and didn’t realize it was an earthquake until our teacher told us. Coincidentally enough, the first instruction from her was also to pray.

          • ghostlightning says:

            Creepy shit that prediction. Yeah Bicol is far, but I imagine all those volcanoes make the ground there quite interesting too. I had the privilege of viewing Mayon volcano at dawn and spouting fire in 2000 riding back to Manila from Sorsogon. Can’t forget it.

          • sadakups says:

            @gloval: Well, the one I received was from some teacher from Brazil. His credibility went down the drain as that mail also included his predictions until 2011. Heck, he never mentioned A(H1N1) in his list. 😛

          • gloval says:

            @ghostlightning
            Well, volcanic quakes are mild compared to tectonic, and the volcano near our place is Mt. Isarog, which has been dormant for hundreds of years. Speaking of Mayon, though, she’s acting up again. Mayon is known to put up a good show when erupting as long as you keep your distance.

            @sadakups
            Ah, I also know that email. That one’s a hoax alright.

  5. Gargron says:

    I admit that I dislike Mirai, though when you pointed that that’s how kids are at that age I considered my antipathy as a mistake. But in all honesty, when I was 12 (That’s how old she is, isn’t she?) I had the same thoughts and the same problems, but never was so bitchy towards my parents and other relatives.

    And yeah, I suppose in the future they’ll be riding those rescue mecha and saving people. After Mirai has shown that she has no sense for controlling them (but it makes her fun I think), it’s only natural if she becomes a pilot. (To defeat her own character defects, so to speak).

    • ghostlightning says:

      Yes, she’s quite relatable no? That would be interesting, if she were to control those rescue robots at some point.

      I suppose I was very vicious towards my parents at several points in my adolescence. Immaturity that comes with age doesn’t excuse me (or Mirai) of her behavior, only that I have much compassion for her.

  6. omisyth says:

    Pfft, Mirai annoys me. Different circumstances in so many ways means it’s not easy for me to sympathise with her.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Like I told Gargon, my compassion for her doesn’t mean she’s excused for forgetting her mom’s birthday, or with how she treats Yuuki.

      I treated my own kid brother like crap too when we were kids, and I’ve kind of overcompensated as an adult because apart from my waifu, he’s like my most favorite person in the world (don’t tell this to the middle child though, but then again our youngest brother is his favorite person too ^_^;).

  7. robeastkilla says:

    I’ve read a few of your blogs now and I am officially using you as one of my beacons for finding new anime. Your reviews are personal and honest and, although I may not always agree, I can appreciate the time you take and your knowledge of the genre.

    I’m going to check this one out. The last real teen/tween anime drama I really enjoyed was Kare Kano and I think it was just because I wanted a lighter take on Anno’s “public and private faces.”

    Plus this one has mecha. I love mecha.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Thank you very much! I must warn you though, that these posts are not so much reviews but rather endorsements, or speculations. I didn’t set out to become a filter for quality, that is, to distinguish ‘good’ shows from ‘bad.’ Nonetheless you may find shows wherein our tastes serendipitously agree, and I can celebrate that as a win for both parties.

      Kare Kano is amazing, despite the mangled 2nd half. It’s a favorite of wife and I, and we used Yukino’s first theme (the one that sounds like the first movement of Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ piano concerto) as my wife’s theme at our wedding. I haven’t written about it much, but here’s a post that references it [->]

      I totally did not expect the robots in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, so it was a very happy surprise ^_^

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  9. kadian1364 says:

    I’m glad you were able to enjoy the first episode as much as I did, maybe even more in your case because you seem to be able to relate on many different levels, from family situation, having younger brother, and earthquake experience (I only thought Mirai reminded me a heck of a lot like my younger sister when she was an early teen). I heartily welcome the unconventional character portrayals.

    Tokyo Magnitude didn’t need to do a lot of things they did to make a disaster story, but their attention to detail made the greater experience so absorbing, whether it be the unwanted summer vacation comparisons with Mirai’s classmates or the dispassionate attitude her parents have towards their children. On the day of the robot exhibition, I saw wavering feelings in Mirai, wanting to throw away her inhibitions and attitude to enjoy the day with her brother, but always letting every little thing set her off, looking for reasons why her life is plain and miserable. Of course, the world would soon remind her otherwise.

    Needless to say, Tokyo Magnitude shoots up to my #1 new show of the season pretty easily.

  10. ghostlightning says:

    On the day of the robot exhibition, I saw wavering feelings in Mirai, wanting to throw away her inhibitions and attitude to enjoy the day with her brother, but always letting every little thing set her off, looking for reasons why her life is plain and miserable.

    Yeah you nailed it.

    This is what she’s set up to regret should Yuuki fail to survive the destruction of the building.

    Being able to relate on many different levels is also a function of age hehehe. My being an oldfag should at least amount to something ^_^;;

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  12. otou-san says:

    I can mostly echo your thoughts here. I figured going into the thing that the first episode’s structure would involve mostly character development, with the quake striking near the end. That’s exactly what happened, but I was so sold on the show during those first 20 minutes that the last 4 surprised me.

    Something I found interesting was the animation style. Comparing this to other Bones shows is almost like comparing Lucky Star to The Second Raid — it’s less detailed and more cartoony, but that look allows for great body language and realistic methods of movement.

    I hear a lot of negative talk about Mirai, but she seems quite believable for her age. At that time, kids are pretty much punks who think that everything is the worst thing in the world. Obviously an appropriate character to survive an apocalypse, though.

    • The animation style works for me too. I didn’t make the distinction that the style makes for superior body language and movement. Now I want to give it another look.

  13. TheBigN says:

    I’m interested in seeing if Mirai, despite growth of character, remains the same disagreeable type of person that she is. Or at least interested in seeing the reaction if that ends up being the case, judging from how some people have responded to her character.

    But yeah, I can totally see her feelings, and it will be interesting to see if she can see those feelings as well.

    • TheBigN says:

      And I did keep in mind that an earthquake was going to occur especially because of the key words that Mirai voice-overed at the beginning of the show, then said just before the moment occurred. 😛

      Yuuki is a nice younger brother, and pretty well behaved.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Something like an Irie Naoki from ItaKiss? I wouldn’t mind that, though the odds are against it since there will be fewer life-changing events in one’s life than an apocalyptic earthquake.

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  15. Sakura says:

    Hmm I was going to give this a pass, the idea of a disaster based series just wasn’t winning me over.

    But given how you said that actually seems quite secondary to what is going on, I may have to give it a look see 🙂

  16. tj han says:

    Great show and fittingly great review of the first episode. I felt the same somewhat, though I was not as n00bshit as Mirai, since she’s a girl and we all know most girls at that age have no hobbies or interests in life and they actually write fake hobbies on profiles just to pretend they have stuff to do. Have you seen Tokyo Story? I’m getting almost similar vibes in familial interactions between this anime and the super classic.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Thanks! LOL at fake hobbies on profiles. I find it interesting how some people want to be seen as interesting more than actually being interested and engaged at life.

      Re Tokyo Story, not yet, and I’m too lazy to look it up. If you can link me to a review or just say more about it I’ll appreciate it.

  17. DonKangolJones says:

    Enjoyed the insightful post. I think the 1st episode of this series did an excellent job of what it seemed to be trying to do. Giving you enough information and atmosphere to get you into the world and the people who inhabit it. Before having it ruthlessly torn down.

    I wasn’t too excited about this show when I first heard of it. But I know it has potential and hope its done in a memorable way. I have to say that though the earthquake was TOTALLY predictable, it still felt like a powerful and scary experience. It came across as more terrifying than most giant robot or alien attacks in OTHER mecha shows. Yes, I too am desperately clinging to this show in hopes of satiating my mecha appetite.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Yes, I too am desperately clinging to this show in hopes of satiating my mecha appetite.

      Welcome to Summer ’09.

      Yeah, it’s a good lesson in going after emotions. I do feel that many shows could learn from the direction of the actual earthquake scene and its set up. Kind of like “give us something to lose, and we’ll worry about it, be filled with dread” etc.

  18. Shay Guy says:

    Haven’t watched TM8.0 ep1 yet, but do you think Mirai might be intended here to be a bit like Chihiro at the beginning of Spirited Away?

    • ghostlightning says:

      I don’t really speculate on creative intentions, so I wouldn’t know.

      That said, that’s not a bad comparison though Chihiro’s boredom is more innocent, for lack of a better word. Nonetheless, it’d be interesting to watch Mirai keeping Chihiro’s story in mind, so nice catch!

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